On Tuesday, October 20th and Wednesday the 22nd the Episcopal City Ministry will be hosting a Zoom phone bank for the Safe Communities Act. You can find a list of the bill’s supporters here. You can help by participating in, and promoting, ECM phone banking on October 20th and October 22nd. Your organization may also want to consider endorsing the Safe Communities Act.
In a nutshell, the Safe Communities Act restores community trust in public institutions by avoiding entanglement in immigration matters and protecting due process for all:
- No questions about immigration status: Bars law enforcement and court personnel from asking people about their status unless required by law. The State Police already have a similar policy. Many immigrants fear that calling 911 or speaking to police will lead to separation from family members – especially children –making them more vulnerable to domestic abuse, wage theft and other crimes. This provision would send a strong message that in our Commonwealth, police protect us all.
- Protects due process: Before Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) questions someone in local custody, requires police to obtain their consent using a form that explains their right to decline an interview or have their own attorney present. Without these protections, people often make statements or sign documents jeopardizing their immigration cases. Non-citizens often unaware of these rights, because “Miranda” warnings are not required in the civil immigration context.
- Limits notifications to ICE: Bars police, court officers and jail officials from notifying ICE that someone is about to be released. Sometimes law enforcement will call ICE to try to keep an immigrant from going free when they can no longer hold them, even though a citizen would go free. The bill would still allow notifications to ICE if a person is being released after serving a criminal sentence.
- No more 287(g) agreements: Ends contracts with ICE that allow state and county personnel to act as federal immigration agents, at state taxpayers’ expense. Such contracts are the most extreme form of entanglement with ICE, and when they shift people into ICE custody before they can go to court, they undermine due process. Massachusetts is the only state in New England to have such agreements, and we have four: with Bristol, Barnstable Plymouth counties, and the Department of Corrections.
- Provides crucial training and accountability: Requires law enforcement agencies to train their personnel about this law, and if there is an alleged violation, people can file a complaint with the relevant agency or the Attorney General. These provisions would help ensure transparency and tackle problems as they arise.
It’s time for Massachusetts to send a clear message that in our Commonwealth, our public institutions serve us all, and everyone’s civil rights are protected.